Turkey, US in intense talks over YPG split
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke on the phone with U.S. President Donald Trump on June 30, while Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), was holding discussions in Ankara following his visit to northern Syria.
The phone conversation between Erdoğan and U.S. President Trump ended on the afternoon on June 30, with the Turkish president also set to hold a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Mahir Ünal stated.
“[The president’s] phone call with Trump ended a short while ago. Our party chair [Erdoğan] will hold a phone call with Putin shortly,” Ünal told reporters after the AKP’s Central Decision Administration Board meeting.
The White House said the two leaders also discussed the resolution of Qatari crisis.
Trump and Erdoğan discussed ways to resolve the dispute "while ensuring that all countries work together to stop terrorist funding and to combat extremist ideology", the White House said in a statement.
According to a separate statement by the Kremlin, Putin and Erdoğan discussed Syrian crisis.
Ankara has repeatedly expressed concerns about the U.S.’s delivery of arms to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which dominates the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the Raqqa offensive, because of the group’s links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
McGurk’s visit came amid fresh military tensions on Turkey’s border with Syria and a widening spilt between NATO allies Ankara and Washington over the YPG.
On June 30, the Turkish military retaliated to harassing fire from the YPG-controlled Afrin region targeting a military post in the border province of Hatay, Doğan News Agency reported.
Speaking a day before, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş vowed that Turkey would respond to any cross-border gunfire from YPG militants in Syria and would “not remain silent in the face of anti-Turkey activities by terrorist groups abroad.”
McGurk was scheduled to hold talks at the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry in Ankara, according to sources.
"Pleased to be in Ankara today for consults with NATO ally Turkey on mutual efforts to defeat ISIS and ensure it can never return," he tweeted, using another acronym for the jihadist group.
He had been was in Syria to consult with local partners on the campaign to defeat ISIL, to see first-hand the humanitarian and stabilization assistance that is underway in liberated areas north of Raqqa, and to hold discussions with local leaders and councils on post-liberation governance, the U.S. Department of State said in June 29.
He also met with the Raqqa Civilian Council to discuss stabilization efforts in post-ISIL Raqqa, it added.
“In all of his meetings, McGurk emphasized the importance of unity of effort and local control of liberated areas following the defeat of ISIS. He looks forward to welcoming all members of our Coalition to Washington for meetings at the political directors level in July to organize and coordinate the next phases of our global campaign,” it also said.
Washington has tried to assure Ankara that it will inform its NATO ally about the weapons delivered to the Syrian Kurdish militia, but this stance has so far failed to convince Ankara.
Earlier on June 28, Defense Minister Fikri Işık had raised concerns over the YPG during a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in Brussels, ahead of a NATO gathering.
The meeting came after Mattis left open the possibility of longer-term assistance to the group, saying the U.S. may need to supply them with weapons and equipment even after the capture of Raqqa.